backup --> iPod
October 15, 2009 7:00 PM   Subscribe

Trying to get my music library from my external hard drive back onto my iPod while maintaining my sanity.

(Apologies in advance for the lengthy/convoluted question.) I recently started having problems with my iPod and realized I should make sure to have a perfect, up-to-date backup. I started by turning on the iPod's hidden files. If you're familiar with these hidden files, you know that they have randomly generated names like "VCKT.m4a," "BBLC.m4a," etc. (no apparent indication of which songs these are), and they're in folders called "F00," "F01," etc. (Mine go up to F49 since I have over 7,000 songs.) I copied all of these files to my external hard drive. At the time this seemed like a really smart, thorough way to do it.

Then I went to the Apple Store and got my iPod fixed, which involved them restoring my iPod. So now I need to recreate my music library in my iPod using the external hard drive.

I thought this would be pretty simple: plug in the iPod and external hard drive to my Macbook at the same time, then drag and drop all the folders -- F00 through F49 -- from the external hard drive to the iPod, right? Well, I did this, and the cryptically named files do appear in the iPod when you look at the iPod's contents in the desktop. But if you try to use the iPod as a normal music-playing device, it doesn't work -- there are no songs that show up for you to listen to (whether you're looking at it in iTunes or disconnected from the computer).

I again thought I was being smart by seeing what happens when I "open" one of the hidden files. Hey cool, a random song gets copied to iTunes! And it's a normal song -- not "VCKT.m4a" but something I can actually listen to, with a song title in English, etc. Of course, I can then drag and drop this song from iTunes into my iPod. At first I thought this would be the solution: just do the same thing for all the songs.

But there are a couple problems with that, and I'd really appreciate any help getting around them. As I said, I have over 7,000 songs, roughly 70 GB of music. My computer's hard drive has about 4 GB left. So if I were to just open all the hidden files from my iPod into iTunes at once, it'd be a disaster: at best, I'd quickly get a message telling me my computer's hard drive couldn't hold any more. (And I'd be afraid I wouldn't be so lucky -- the hard drive could get filled up and paralyzed. This happened to someone I know.)

So, should I just copy the hidden files one folder at a time? I could do that, but that would mean opening up the songs from "F00," waiting for them to get copied to iTunes, then waiting for them to get copied to the iPod, then deleting those songs from iTunes and emptying the trash, then moving on to "F01" ... and repeating that whole thing 50 times. I'd like to avoid that if I can.

So my questions are:

(1) Is there an easier way to do this? I'd love to be able to just get it started, then sit back and let the computer handle it.

(2) I already feel kind of silly for how much of a minor ordeal this has turned into as a result of my backup method that I (mistakenly?) thought was so clever. Could someone please assure me that there's a way to follow through with this that won't mess things up even further?

(In case it's relevant, my external hard drive holds about 500 GB, I have a 160 GB iPod, and I'm using Mac OS 10.4.11.)
posted by Jaltcoh to Computers & Internet (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I am less familiar with mac, but on a pc you can import files or import a folder. Restoring from my ipod hidden file, I had itunes import the just the file; that gave me all the music and movies. If your issue is importing one file at a time, stick all the files in a single folder and import that folder. And wait. And wait.

Make sure in your preferences that you have the program copy files it is importing on to your hard drive.

Good luck.
posted by mr_felix_t_cat at 7:10 PM on October 15, 2009


Why aren't your songs in your computer's iTunes library to begin with? That would really be the simplest way to solve this problem. Open your iTunes preferences, go to (I believe) the "advanced" tab, and tell the program that your library is on your external drive so it won't be copying anything to your computer's internal hard drive at all.

Now, drag all the folders into your iTunes library, and let it work its cataloging magic on the files. It will be writing them back to the same drive they're being taken from, so you might want to do this in small chunks rather than all at once.

Then plug in your iPod and let it sync with the iTunes.

And this time, leave the iTunes library in place, so if you have this problem again, you can deal with it in a more elegant manner.

Oh, and you might want to download Senuti. That will let you pull music off your iPod without having to enable hidden files or anything like that. It lets you browse the contents and extract music files with names and other file structure intact.
posted by hippybear at 7:16 PM on October 15, 2009


If I were you and I'm understanding the situation correctly, I would do a FIND or SEARCH on the external drive using your OS for all files that have the *.mp4, *.mp3, *.m4p, etc, etc extensions. There shouldn't actually be that many extensions to account for - in fact I think I've listed the three primary ones here.

Anyway, you'll get a list of approximately 7,000 files. I would then open iTunes and (assuming you have an empty iTunes library) drag these files (by selecting all from the search result window) into iTunes. iTunes will chug for 20 minutes or so as it processes all that and, if you have it configured to do so, copies it to a local drive on your machine.

Once it's in iTunes, I would hook up your iPod and just drag it all on over to that. Or sync it. Or however.
posted by kbanas at 7:20 PM on October 15, 2009


You could also do it hippybears way, by pointing iTunes to the external drive directly and dragging over the folders. But I find sometimes dragging multiple hundreds of folders like that can sometimes make iTunes go a little sideways, so I prefer to search.
posted by kbanas at 7:21 PM on October 15, 2009


For clarification -- I'm recommending that you set up iTunes' library on your external drive because you say you have severe space limitations on your computers internal harddrive.
posted by hippybear at 7:23 PM on October 15, 2009


Why aren't your songs in your computer's iTunes library to begin with?

I can't do that since my computer doesn't have nearly enough space. That's why my practice has been to keep my music in my iPod and external hard drive. I use iTunes as a temporary place to hold music that I've recently acquired.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:25 PM on October 15, 2009


Oh, I see what you mean. I didn't even realize iTunes had an option to grab its library from a source other than the computer.

Unfortunately, when I go into preferences and select the external hard drive as the source, nothing shows up. It's not perceiving the songs.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:28 PM on October 15, 2009


To clarify, I do know how to drag and drop a whole bunch of files at a time. I could drag all 7,000 of them from the hard drive straight to the iPod. Or I could drag all of them into iTunes. But either of these actions is problematic for the reasons I described in the post. (Specifically, dragging to the iPod doesn't produce the songs in listenable form, and there's no room to drag all of them to iTunes.)

I'm still not seeing how I'm supposed to actually get the songs to show up.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:38 PM on October 15, 2009


Sorry, I skipped some steps, didn't want to talk down to you.

1) create a folder on your external hard drive which is not where you have all the extracted files from your iPod. This will be your new iTunes library folder. Give it a cute name, like "new iTunes Library" or something.

2) point your iTunes program (Preferences Advanced tab, I believe) to that new folder you just made. Click the checkbox on that same page which says something like "keep iTunes library organized".

3) drag data from your extracted iPod folder into your iTunes program. It will copy these files into the new library you're creating and will put all the correct data with it, organize the folder, etc. Do this in tiny chunks until you have moved all your extracted iPod data into your iTunes program

4) Plug in your iPod and have it sync with your new recreated iTunes Library.
posted by hippybear at 7:49 PM on October 15, 2009


Again, to clarify, iTunes will NOT see any of these files until they have been imported into the library. Just pointing the iTunes library pointer at that folder won't do anything. There has to be an import process. It's just how iTunes works.
posted by hippybear at 7:51 PM on October 15, 2009


2) point your iTunes program (Preferences Advanced tab, I believe) to that new folder you just made. Click the checkbox on that same page which says something like "keep iTunes library organized".

I'm trying to do this, but it doesn't seem to have any effect. I'm just seeing my normal old iTunes library.

3) drag data from your extracted iPod folder into your iTunes program. It will copy these files into the new library you're creating and will put all the correct data with it, organize the folder, etc. Do this in tiny chunks until you have moved all your extracted iPod data into your iTunes program

That sounds like the same method I was considering before that would either be incredibly laborious (a series of time consuming steps, repeated 50 times) or impossible since there's no space in my computer. I'm probably missing something, but it's still not making sense to me.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:01 PM on October 15, 2009


Yeah, you're missing this: your new iTunes library folder should be ON YOUR EXTERNAL DRIVE.

You do have room on your external drive??? it's a half-gig drive, so I hope you do.

If you don't, then you're screwed and you'll have to do all this piecemeal.

See, what you're doing is, you're making your iTunes program store all of its files on the external drive, and not on your computer's internal drive. Because you don't have room on the internal drive.

So you make it store everything on the external drive, then you MUST use some kind of import process to bring all the extracted files from your iPod into your iTunes library. If you have that one checkbox checked, then what it will do is copy (not move) each of those music files from the folder where you have the extracted data into your new Library folder, which should now be on the external drive.

As you do this, the tracks will appear in your library, and then can be copied onto the iPod. If you have the room on your external drive, you can do this with ALL the files rather than having to do them piecemeal.
posted by hippybear at 8:06 PM on October 15, 2009


Jaltcoh: I just sent you MeMail.
posted by hippybear at 8:09 PM on October 15, 2009


Ah! I'm pretty sure I've got it working the way you've described it, hippybear. I'll post an update if/when it's complete. In the meantime, thanks a lot ... I reeeeeally appreciate it!
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:25 PM on October 15, 2009


Not a problem. I'm glad it's working for ya. Please, give us the follow-up.

(I know how confusing all this can be, so I'm glad you stuck with me and my unclear instructions!)
posted by hippybear at 8:27 PM on October 15, 2009


You backed up your files in a weird way, which is why you're having convoluted problems now. If you'd just dragged all the files out of iTunes to your drive instead of the "hidden files" trick, you could indeed just drag them back now.

As others above have said: iTunes is all about the library, and the library is an index to where your files are... they may be in many different places.

Confusing the index with the data is the source of many, many iTunes mishaps.
posted by rokusan at 8:33 PM on October 15, 2009


rokusan: I would have had an easier time with that if the computer didn't give me problems every time I try to drag new songs into a backup that already contains some old songs that happen to be by the same artist. If I've just bought the new Camera Obscura album, and I want to add it to my external hard drive backup, which already has Camera Obscura's previous album, I get a dialogue box asking me if I want to replace the old "Camera Obscura" folder with the new "Camera Obscura" folder, or if I want to cancel the operation. Of course, I want neither of those -- I want the computer to sort everything automatically, but it doesn't seem to do be able to do so reliably. That's why I switched to the hidden-files method in the first place.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:55 PM on October 15, 2009


Jaltcoh: using the iTunes library you've now built on your external drive coupled with the "keep music folder organized" checktab will allow iTunes to build a very logical set of nested folders for you, which will be sorted automatically and is crystal clear to navigate if you have to find files directly instead of using iTunes to locate them.
posted by hippybear at 8:59 PM on October 15, 2009


Jaltcoh: using the iTunes library you've now built on your external drive coupled with the "keep music folder organized" checktab will allow iTunes to build a very logical set of nested folders for you

But the problem I described in my previous comment will still happen when moving songs from my computer's hard drive to the backup external hard drive, right?
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:27 AM on October 16, 2009


But the problem I described in my previous comment will still happen when moving songs from my computer's hard drive to the backup external hard drive, right?

No, it won't, if you do it the right way -- that is, open the files on your computer, which should prompt iTunes to open (if it isn't open already) and automatically copy the files to wherever iTunes is keeping your library (in this case, your external drive). I'm pretty sure this is the default setting for iTunes, but if it isn't it's very easy to set in your preferences.

Really, everything you want to do should be done through iTunes to make sure that everything is in its rightful place and save yourself all the headache.
posted by macdara at 5:54 AM on October 16, 2009


Yes, exactly what macdara said. Let iTunes be your go-between for copying / sorting your music files, and all will be well. That why the checkbox which says "keep music folder organized" is important. It is the magic button which tells iTunes that you want all your files stored in a directory tree which follows this basic shape: Music -> Artist -> Album -> actual tracks for that album. Anytime you buy new music, or rip a new CD, or whatever, as long as the tags for those tracks have the artist and album information filled in properly, iTunes will automatically file them right where you want them.

In fact, if you change this information, it will restructure the directory tree for you. For example, if you decide that you want to reorganize your library according to Last, First artist name rather than First Last artist name, it will rebuild the structure of the music folder to reflect any changes you have made, without you having to do anything other than change the tags within the iTunes interface.
posted by hippybear at 1:22 PM on October 16, 2009


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